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Author Topic: Merry Christmas; what the heck is this guitar?  (Read 1359 times)
aeijtzsche
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« on: December 24, 2019, 07:52:53 PM »

This is ultimately Beach Boys related, even though this isn't a Beach Boys session;

I was recently going through my copy of the "Wrecking Crew book" and reminded that there's this weird guitar Howard Roberts is playing:



It looks kinda like roughly a Gibson Firebird style, but with the extended "switch panel" and the kind of different string anchors.

Also, anybody know who the organist is?  Incidentally, I believe that's a Hammond S-series chord organ with some mods.  Such a strange choice for a pro in a studio but there we are.

Anyway, if someone knows the answer, I'll tell you why it's related to the Beach Boys!
« Last Edit: December 24, 2019, 07:56:25 PM by aeijtzsche » Logged
Pretty Funky
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« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2019, 07:14:40 PM »

When you look at the 3 panels behind the players you see the 3rd one is extended, distorted, and twisted. I’d like to think the guitar has somehow been included but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how!  LOL
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aeijtzsche
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2019, 03:15:32 AM »

better photo
« Last Edit: December 26, 2019, 12:50:50 PM by aeijtzsche » Logged
JK
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2019, 05:12:29 AM »

Merry Christmas, aeijtzsche! Grin

Oooff! I've looked everywhere for it (for as long as Boxing Day allows).

Hopefully one of the two Craigs knows...
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« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2019, 05:40:51 AM »

This is ultimately Beach Boys related, even though this isn't a Beach Boys session;

I was recently going through my copy of the "Wrecking Crew book" and reminded that there's this weird guitar Howard Roberts is playing:



It looks kinda like roughly a Gibson Firebird style, but with the extended "switch panel" and the kind of different string anchors.

Also, anybody know who the organist is?  Incidentally, I believe that's a Hammond S-series chord organ with some mods.  Such a strange choice for a pro in a studio but there we are.

Anyway, if someone knows the answer, I'll tell you why it's related to the Beach Boys!

And, what's that little speaker (mounted on a mic stand?)....could this be a guitar that was capable of playing organ sounds (Lesliefied)? Or, were the organ and guitar somehow linked in some way...
 
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aeijtzsche
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« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2019, 12:53:20 PM »

The speaker is some kind of monitor, for playback and/or talkback.

There are plenty of other guitars that are loaded up with weird switches, but I've not seen anything quite like it.
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Pretty Funky
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2019, 08:38:09 PM »

I know nothing about guitars....but love a good mystery.

Any chance the guitar allegedly given to Howard Roberts in this link, is a variation of the guitar pictured? In other words, although 3 prototypes were made, none were the same model? Note the angled strings.

https://guitarz.blogspot.com/2017/02/ultra-rare1967-bigsby-condor-prototype.html?m=1


.....and from the eventual purchaser.

Well, I purchased this for a more reasonable $835 delivered. If anyone ever learns anything about this guitar, please post here. I will check back from time to time.

I figured at this price, the guitar was worth it as parts. It has a set of single line Kluson's on it. Which is interesting because they stopped making those in the early 60s. So that does indicate it was made in a shop with parts supply inventory from the past. The pickup looks like a Jaguar? The pots look like vintage CTS. And a vintage Switchcraft toggle switch. Who knows what's in the box? I don't plan on parting it out, but that's how I justified the cost.

Some updates:

1. It works. The box has about 10 primitive circuit boards all hand soldered. The boards attach to a base circuit board with these two pronged copper pieces that scissor into two pronged copper pieces on the main base board. Many of these boards had fallen out. Just put them back in place. The sound is spotty though. It has two outputs to the amp. One is a pass through and all the weird sounds are not used (just a normal sound) goes to the amp and sounds great. The other output has all the push button effects and uses all the wires in the "network" cable that connects the guitar to the box. Weirdly enough some strings won't make a sound (seems each wire in the "network" cable controls a string? There are two of these "network" chords and both have problems but on different strings. It may be the connectors need to be cleaned.

2. Pick up is a jaguar dates 3-18-65. The pots are CTS dated 13th week of 1967. One tuner is a no line Kluson from the mid 50s the rest are single line, late 50s to early 60s. The guitar itself has sustain for about a day and a half. The big headstock piece is for laying it down as a steel string, I think?
Last edited: Mar 24, 2017

https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/paul-bigsby-condor-guitar.1748756/
« Last Edit: December 27, 2019, 08:47:55 PM by Pretty Funky » Logged
c-man
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2019, 11:11:19 PM »

I think we have a winner!
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Pretty Funky
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« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2019, 11:29:58 PM »

Also, going with the 3 prototypes scenario. The one Roberts is playing could be the first, as it looks butt ugly and a clunker. The one up for auction is more ‘streamlined ‘ for want of a better term, so a latter of the three. Both guitars have no manufacturer name anywhere I can see.
At the very least, who better to give a prototype to than some of the best studio musicians of the day to test and critique?
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aeijtzsche
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2019, 02:39:04 AM »

Also, going with the 3 prototypes scenario. The one Roberts is playing could be the first, as it looks butt ugly and a clunker. The one up for auction is more ‘streamlined ‘ for want of a better term, so a latter of the three. Both guitars have no manufacturer name anywhere I can see.
At the very least, who better to give a prototype to than some of the best studio musicians of the day to test and critique?

Nice Work!!!!!!!!

But I think Ho-Rob's version looks way better than the Milwaukee prototype!

What a weird guitar.  But there he is using it on a session, along with a Hammond Chord Organ.  The next thing to solve is what the heck session that was!!!!

Thanks for your great detective work!!!!!
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« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2019, 08:13:55 AM »

Also, going with the 3 prototypes scenario. The one Roberts is playing could be the first, as it looks butt ugly and a clunker. The one up for auction is more ‘streamlined ‘ for want of a better term, so a latter of the three. Both guitars have no manufacturer name anywhere I can see.
At the very least, who better to give a prototype to than some of the best studio musicians of the day to test and critique?

Nice Work!!!!!!!!

But I think Ho-Rob's version looks way better than the Milwaukee prototype!

What a weird guitar.  But there he is using it on a session, along with a Hammond Chord Organ.  The next thing to solve is what the heck session that was!!!!

Thanks for your great detective work!!!!!

Could we hear the BB connections now please?  Wink
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guitarfool2002
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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2019, 09:40:29 AM »

Great work and research PF, thanks for the digging! At least we found something comparable...but there are a few red flags along with some missing pieces that the Reverb site link filled in.

As someone posted in the linked thread, that looks nothing like a Bigsby guitar...and the timeline of *that* guitar related to Bigsby himself and his own life doesn't seem to match up. I can and will add more background, but it is a little wonk-ish beyond the topic at hand.

Just a quick summary: Paul Bigsby by 1967 had sold his major money-maker in the guitar business, his own patented Bigsby vibrato bridge, and was not building or designing guitars in 1966-1967. Former Gibson head Ted McCarty and his former colleague at Gibson had bought out Bigsby and his entire company and factory in 1966. Paul Bigsby did not want to be involved in that field any longer and willingly sold to move on to other things. Bigsby himself died in 1968. The chances of that guitar being an official "Bigsby" are - to me - slim to none. But I can't be 100% sure, and it seems very few can either. Also, Bigsby himself was a builder, craftsman, and master woodworker and metal machinist, which is why his guitars were made so damn well. But he was not an electronic effects kind of guy, at least not to the degree featured on those two mystery guitars.

For even non guitar players, please look up Paul Bigsby and his story online...it's a key part and a fascinating one too of the development of electric guitars and country/popular music too in the 1950's. Bigsby is a household word among guitarists due to his vibrato bridge (you can see Carl Wilson playing a Telecaster with a Bigsby on the Ed Sullivan performance from '68), but the guitars Bigsby himself made by hand in the 50's are works of art. Not to mention his pedal and non-pedal steel guitars.

Let's just say you cannot walk into a music store and see an original Bigsby guitar or steel. I may be off a bit with the trends but I think the value of an original Bigsby *starts* around 30 grand and moves up from there. He pretty much hand crafted almost every part on his handmade guitars, including machining the metal parts where needed.

What that guitar looks like to me (as being held by Howard Roberts) is a Gibson Firebird body design, modified, with Gibson Firebird I control knobs and switch positioning, slightly modified. The inlays on the neck on Howard's guitar are Gibson. This would make sense *IF* there was a connection with Ted McCarty having come from Gibson within the previous year or so. Perhaps the Howard Roberts guitar was built using the Gibson Firebird body platform, modified to include all the electronics and extra wiring.

So if the Ted McCarty and Gibson connection was a factor, perhaps that Howard Roberts held guitar was a prototype McCarty had been involved with? Who knows short of more info.

The guitar listed and sold online...That is an odd duck, no clue what the connections were. But the detective work shows a definite relationship to the Roberts guitar, especially the bridge assembly and those weird bridge/tail pins drilled into the body itself.

End part 1...lol

EDIT: Adding the description from the Reverb site sale, apparently Barney Kessel got the other one of the three, besides Howard's and the one sold on Reverb:

1967 Bigsby Condor Prototype Experimental Guitar, only 3 made, was to be called the Condor, one was given to Barney Kessel, the other was given to Howard Roberts, this one sat in Milwaukee since then, Paul Bigsby may have worked on this-no way to know, the pots are 1967, Paul died in 1968, Hammond was contacted for the electronics, and the work was contracted out to Gibbs Electronics in Milton Wisconsin, Natural finish, Rosewood fretboard, the guitar weighs 11 lbs. - 0.9 oz., biggest volute & headstock on Earth !!, huge neck profile, the guitar has been sitting for almost 50 years, it has not been tested, everything is in very good condition, don't miss this once in a lifetime chance to get an extremely cool & unique collectors item, has the original fancy heavy duty hard case.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2019, 10:06:31 AM by guitarfool2002 » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2019, 09:49:31 AM »

Part 2:

Hear me out on this one. That is indeed a Hammond S chord organ, can't tell if it's an earlier S6 or later S100, but it is indeed a Hammond S chord organ. Great spot.

The S Series was a Hammond without a tone wheel generator, or in other words, the sound was driven electronically and not mechanical like the B, C, or M series drawbar Hammonds. There is something like 3 dozen individual tubes inside that thing to produce the sound.

Thanks to the link provided by PF, I think I know what the photo is showing a little more clearly.

At that link, you see the guitar, which would act both as a guitar you would plug straight in, and a control to and from the circuit-laden board you see clearly in at least one of the photos. The control box seems to have controlled and fed the sounds to the "electronic" panel board sitting on the face of the guitar, so the player could change sounds and effects like an organist with stops or tabs.

So take a look again at the Roberts photo.

The same kind of primitive control board or box, with individual knobs going across the front panel, is what is sitting on top of the Hammond S6 organ. I say primitive because the housing looks like it's been anchored into unpolished 2X4 pieces or something...but looking closer, it is a similar layout and platform as seen in the link to the other guitar sold on Reverb at the link.

I'm going to say the control panel for Howard's mystery guitar is what is sitting on top of the Hammond...and I'm 99% sure at this point that is what it is showing in the photo. I do not think the Hammond was modified, and that control panel is not part of or connected to the organ itself, but rather part of the control "guts" of Howard's guitar.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2019, 09:57:32 AM by guitarfool2002 » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2019, 10:06:23 AM »

Thanks for your enthusiasm in my detective work GF and aeijtzsche.

Yes the Bigsby connection can’t be proven, and I think that ultimately was reflected the price going down from over $3k (someone in the thread said it went above $7k) back down to the $800 eventually paid. FWIW Bigsby may have done nothing more than throw out a concept in a staff cafeteria years earlier.
If it’s any consolation for the purchaser this possible tie-in with the prototype being played in the picture could increase the value. Anyone a member of that guitar forum? This thread would now probably be of great interest to him.


« Last Edit: December 28, 2019, 10:10:11 AM by Pretty Funky » Logged
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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2019, 12:26:31 PM »

Also, going with the 3 prototypes scenario. The one Roberts is playing could be the first, as it looks butt ugly and a clunker. The one up for auction is more ‘streamlined ‘ for want of a better term, so a latter of the three. Both guitars have no manufacturer name anywhere I can see.
At the very least, who better to give a prototype to than some of the best studio musicians of the day to test and critique?

Nice Work!!!!!!!!

But I think Ho-Rob's version looks way better than the Milwaukee prototype! The next thing to solve is what the heck session that was!!!!


Looks like Plas Johnson in thebackgrouind. Does anyone have an idea that studio it was?
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aeijtzsche
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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2019, 05:07:20 PM »

Also, going with the 3 prototypes scenario. The one Roberts is playing could be the first, as it looks butt ugly and a clunker. The one up for auction is more ‘streamlined ‘ for want of a better term, so a latter of the three. Both guitars have no manufacturer name anywhere I can see.
At the very least, who better to give a prototype to than some of the best studio musicians of the day to test and critique?

Nice Work!!!!!!!!

But I think Ho-Rob's version looks way better than the Milwaukee prototype! The next thing to solve is what the heck session that was!!!!


Looks like Plas Johnson in thebackgrouind. Does anyone have an idea that studio it was?

It's Plas.  My guess is Capitol studios.  I have a wider angle I'll post tomorrow with Billy Pitman and Hal Blaine visible, plus some other percussionists.  Would really like to figure out the session.
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aeijtzsche
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« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2019, 12:54:20 PM »

« Last Edit: December 29, 2019, 12:54:58 PM by aeijtzsche » Logged
aeijtzsche
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« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2019, 12:56:57 PM »

So yes, I think it's very likely Capitol.  Certainly looks as though Howie is the leader, and I know that he had Hal and Billy play for him.  Obviously it's not the HR Quartet, and I'm just not quite as familiar with HR's discography as I should be so...

Craig, I think you may be right about the control panel for Howard's strange guitar simply being set upon the top of the Hammond.
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« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2019, 01:02:47 PM »

Do we think the guitarist on the right is Billy Strange or Tommy Tedesco?  They look enough alike in the photos that I've seen for me to be uncertain...
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aeijtzsche
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« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2019, 01:08:04 PM »

That's Bill Pitman.

I think the percussionist is probably Howard's wife Jill Roberts, The only people I'm not sure about are the organist and the Timpanist.  The organ could be Henry Cain or Dave Grusin or someone else.  
« Last Edit: December 29, 2019, 01:09:01 PM by aeijtzsche » Logged
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« Reply #20 on: December 29, 2019, 01:42:28 PM »

Jill Roberts:

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« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2019, 01:46:42 PM »

I don't know who it *is*, but it is *not* Henry Cain on organ.  Smiley
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« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2019, 02:10:08 PM »

Since the photo shows Howard sitting on the high stool at the leader's podium for the session, I'm going to take a prelim guess that it is for an HR solo project, and suggest it could be for his solo album "Out Of Sight (But 'In' Sound)", released on Capitol 1968. Credited to the HR Quartet (and some more). The liner notes are non-existent for musicians credited on the album sleeve, and what does exist elsewhere does not list Hal Blaine...but I'm guessing this could be the project whose session photo we're seeing. Some of the groovy drum tracks do sound like Hal versus the other drummers HR usually played with, like Shelley Manne and Earl Palmer.

And since it was the album's attempt to blend current music and sounds with a psychedelic flavor, Howard using that experimental guitar for some far-out sounds would also line up, along with the timeline of that guitar itself.
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aeijtzsche
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« Reply #23 on: December 29, 2019, 02:26:36 PM »

Since the photo shows Howard sitting on the high stool at the leader's podium for the session, I'm going to take a prelim guess that it is for an HR solo project, and suggest it could be for his solo album "Out Of Sight (But 'In' Sound)", released on Capitol 1968. Credited to the HR Quartet (and some more). The liner notes are non-existent for musicians credited on the album sleeve, and what does exist elsewhere does not list Hal Blaine...but I'm guessing this could be the project whose session photo we're seeing. Some of the groovy drum tracks do sound like Hal versus the other drummers HR usually played with, like Shelley Manne and Earl Palmer.

And since it was the album's attempt to blend current music and sounds with a psychedelic flavor, Howard using that experimental guitar for some far-out sounds would also line up, along with the timeline of that guitar itself.

That does seem like as good a guess as one could muster.

I don't know who it *is*, but it is *not* Henry Cain on organ.  Smiley

He's one dude I have no clue what he looks like.
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aeijtzsche
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« Reply #24 on: December 29, 2019, 02:27:07 PM »

Jill Roberts:



Great photo of her--what's it from?
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